Homai Vyarawalla, India’s first woman press photographer, in Mumbai

On the plane from Bangalore to Mumbai I read about the exhibition ‘Homai Vyarawalla, a retrospective’ in Mumbai’s National Gallery of Modern Art. Enjoying a free weekend in Mumbai, today colleague Manish and I were wandering around Mumbai when suddenly we found ourselves in front of the National Gallery. And of course we had to go in.

At the entrance to the National Gallery sat a very old lady, signing a book and being photographed. At 97 years old Homai Vyarawalla might look very tiny and fragile but she is every inch a lady and you can see very well what a strong woman she must have been in younger years.

Homai is India’s first woman press photographer and captured many decisive moments in India’s history: the last days of the British Empire and the birth of a new Nation, the hoisting of the first flag at Red Fort on August 16th, 1947, the funerals of Gandhi and Nehru and much more. Next to the news she chronicled daily life in Mumbai in the 1940s and in Delhi in the 1950s and 1960s. Her photos, being new to me, are beautiful. Striking, often iconic and full of emotion.

Very lucky to be in time to see the show, as this is the last weekend, and more so to encounter Homai Vyarawalla herself.

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